Bear's problem is that his so-so novels (Eon and Blood Music, both 1985) have not lived up to the promise of his dazzling story collection The Wind from a Burning Woman (1983). This one, a love song for an Earth doomed by an alien invasion, is his weakest outing so far. In 1996, former presidential science advisor Arthur Gordon receives a confusing telephone call from a colleague: Europa, one of Jupiter's large moons, has inexplicably vanished! Other oddities soon crop up. A cinder cone appears out of nowhere in Death Valley, baffling geologist Edward Shaw; an alien, emerging from the cone--actually some sort of spaceship--croaks apologetically about "bad news." In Australia, a duplicate Ayers Rock--another spaceship--yields some robots who claim to be information-bearing galactic emissaries. A radioactive meteorite plunges down from space into the Earth's core, while other mysterious activities occur deep in Earth's ocean trenches. What's going on? Well, the Earth has been invaded by bad-guy planet-eating robots, you see; the US President thinks they're angels and forbids all opposition--not that nay meaningful opposition is possible anyway (the aliens are vastly superior). Belatedly, good-guy aliens pop up to build some spaceships and rescue a lucky few, leaving the Earth and everyone else to be chewed up by the bad robots. Prolonged rhapsodizing but little solid plotting--what there is doesn't add up--and ininvolving in that the faceless cast of thousands exerts little or no control over what goes on. Very disappointing work from a talented but overproductive and erratic writer.